Before I left for Oregon, Carmon asked if I would comment on Charles Williams when I returned. I’m back, but I’m not sure what to say.
I read a few of Williams’s novels several years ago, though I remember little about them. I figured I would start reading (and in some cases rereading) Williams chronologically (can you say “obsessive-compulsive”?), starting with the first novel he published, War in Heaven.
In many ways, it’s a delightful book. It starts out with the discovery of a dead body, but just as you’re thinking it might be something of a mystery novel, things begin to change, and I’m not going to tell you exactly how, except to mention that it involves an old chalice in a small church in England which might be the Holy Grail (or, as Williams prefers to spell it, the Graal). Here’s one of my favourite paragraphs:
So through the English roads the Graal was borne away in the care of a Duke, an Archdeacon, and a publisher’s cler, pursued by a country householder, the Chief Constable of a county, and a perplexed policeman. And these things also perhaps the angels desired to look into.
In all the fun, there’s also a lot of serious weirdness. Williams’s prose isn’t always crystal clear and there are moments when the story bogs down momentarily or loses one in bafflement (“What is he on about here?”). Perhaps the best thing I can do is recommend Thomas Howard’s The Novels of Charles Williams, which I have but haven’t read. It appears, however, to be a helpful guide to what’s going on in the novels and how it relates to Williams’s views about theology and the nature of charity and whatnot.
Since finishing Williams and Wodehouse (see my last entry), I’ve also read Walker Percy’s The Last Gentleman, his second novel, which I greatly enjoyed, though with Percy, too, albeit in a completely different way than with Williams, I’m never entirely sure where the story is going and I’ve been musing over the ending. What is the last question Will Barrett wants to ask Sutter just before Sutter drives away?
And now I’m reading C. S. Lewis’s first narrative poem, Dymer. I’ve also been reading some stuff on preaching in preparation for a lecture on liturgical preaching at the upcoming Biblical Horizons conference. I need to get that talk prepared before I leave for my vacation.
As Barb said in the comments on the last post, I am indeed back from my trip to the States.
I left Grande Prairie on the morning of June 16 and flew to Portland, Oregon, where one of Reformation Covenant Church‘s deacons picked me up and drove me out to Twin Rocks Friends Camp on the Oregon coast, just south of Rockaway Beach and a little bit north of Tillamook (with its famous Cheese Factory). I arrived at the camp in time to grab a quick supper and then catch James Jordan‘s lecture on the so-called “New Perspective on Paul.”
That evening, Jim showed Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, with some commentary and discussion. The next two nights, he showed (and discussed) Tarkovsky’s Solaris, not to be confused with the Soderberg version starring George Clooney which came out last year.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, I spoke three times. In between sessions, I visited with several people.
I wish I could have stayed for the rest of the camp. It was a beautiful spot and I would have liked to have been able to relax a bit once my lectures were done. (Jim offered me one of the Jack Vance volumes he had brought along, but I was reading P. G. Wodehouse’s A Damsel in Distress already.) Besides, Jim was giving four lectures on the Minor Prophets and there was a ball and a talent show. But I had to attend Classis Western Canada in Salem, so I caught a ride with Chori Seraiah, the pastor of Trinity Reformation Church in Salem, and left the camp behind.
I’m not going to review the classis here. Some of the decisions made have a significant impact on this congregation, and we need to think carefully about how we respond to them. It was nice, however, to see some old friends there and to meet some new ones.
After the classis, I rode with Rich Hamlin and Roland Robinson, the delegates from the Evangelical Reformed Church, to Tacoma where I preached and administered the Lord’s Supper on Sunday.
Then, last Monday, I flew back to Grande Prairie … after waiting an hour and a quarter to get to security and consequently missing my flight to Vancouver and my connection to Calgary. I finally managed to get back on schedule in Calgary and arrived home on time.
This week, I have to write two sermons and prepare a talk on liturgical preaching for the Biblical Horizons conference in July. And then I’m off on a vacation for a while!
So this week, I’m scrambling to get my talks together. My three lectures are entitled “The Covenant, Families, and Children,” “The Covenant and Evangelism,” and “The Covenant: What’s All the Fuss?” I’ve prepared outlines for all of them, though I’m not entirely satisfied with them yet.
Unfortunately, I’m going to miss Jim’s lectures on the minor prophets. After the Wednesday evening panel discussion, I’m heading for Salem to take part in Classis Western Canada 2003. Yes, the region whose delegates assemble as Classis Western Canada includes churches in the States (Lynden and Tacoma in Washington, and Salem, Oregon). For that matter, it also includes Thunder Bay, Ontario, and Ontario is hardly western Canada.
In other news, I’ve read a few books lately, including Klaas Schilder’s Extra-Scriptural Binding (helpful in places, but rather jumbled and disorganized and sometimes frustrating) and Gene Wolfe’s Soldier of the Mist and Soldier of Arete, both of which I enjoyed greatly. I hear that Wolfe is working (or thinking of working) on the third in the series (Soldier of Sidon), though it won’t be out for quite a while, since Wolfe has three other books (two novels and a short story collection) due out first. I hope he lives long enough to finish the Soldier series.
Yesterday, I started Charles Williams’s War in Heaven. After our monthly council meeting (a good time was had by all) and a bit of a birthday party at Alex‘s place (happy birthday, Alex), I stood outside on my deck at 11:45 and read a line or so of the book by the light of the setting sun. Granted, it wasn’t easy to read outside, but I wasn’t in the best location for light and we still have a few weeks left before the longest day of the year. Yessir, I live in the land of the midnight sun.
And this morning the guys (technically known as The Concrete Specialist) showed up to pour and stamp my driveway. This may be the most theologically literate concrete crew in the history of the world. Four of them are members of Covenant Reformed: Leo, the owner, is our deacon, George has two years of seminary under his belt, Tim is Tim, of course, and has a seminary degree, Jamie is our chief musician. And then there are the Lutherans, Nathan and Josh. Makes for all kinds of interesting discussions on the jobsite!
A friend just drew my attention to this, the dullest blog ever.